Best Picture Review: The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

The Great Ziegfeld
The Great Ziegfeld

Tonight, Lauren and I were able to free up three hours to sit down and watch the 1936 winner of the Best Picture award, The Great Ziegfeld.  Like Broadway Melody and Cimarron, we were left disappointed.

I knew right off the bat that it would be a long night when the first five minutes of the movie had to be fast-forwarded through.  It said “Overture” on the screen while a long song played with nothing happening in the background.  They set the movie up like a play, doing this again at intermission.

There’s not a ton of information out there on this movie.  It was said that this movie was created for the purpose of promoting some big musical productions, and it worked to tie it together with the biography of Broadway producer Florenz Ziegfeld.

Large portions of the movie deviate from the storyline and instead focus on the musical numbers of some of his biggest productions.  The numbers have nothing to do with each other and nothing to do with the plot of the movie other than to show how extravagant Ziegfeld’s shows, sets, and costumes were.

There were a handful of humorous moments.  Ziegfeld is constantly foiling the plans of his nemesis, Billings, over the years.  Billings discovers the talent and is all ready to sign the girls to big contracts, when in steps Ziegfeld and steals the girls away.  This happens again and again, year after year, until his death.

Another funny moment was late in the movie when Ziegfeld produces a musical about the circus, and one of the extravagant numbers features a few border collies, who awkwardly stand in place while women dance through and around them.  Then this one female dancer walks by and each dog takes its turn walking ahead a few paces into a square on the floor.  One stupid dog misses the square and is a few feet in front of the others.  That made me laugh.

Overall, the movie was painfully long.  The musical numbers weren’t catchy for the most part.  The story was weak at best.  The acting was fine.  In fact, Luise Rainer won the award for Best Actress.  I did find it interesting that she is the oldest living Academy Award winner at 98.

Where this movie belongs on the list is debatable.  It is either last, or second to last.  Broadway Melody was so bad that it was at least laughably bad.  The Great Ziegfeld was bad and unfunny.  I think it is the worst so far.  I’m going to rank it behind Broadway Melody for extreme lack of entertainment of any kind!

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2 comments

  1. About the elegant dogs that performed in his circus number. They are not Border Collies, which are medium size black and white dogs which we commonly see in agility trials. Those dogs look more like the very tall Borzoi, related to the Greyhound.

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